John 17:6-19

This text is used as one of the texts for the Lectionary Year B on May 17, 2015.

Jesus’ prayer of the Upper Room is his longest and the most sublime.  One senses the eternal realm Jesus has entered in this prayer as if he has one foot on earth and another in heaven.  He says in verse 11, “I am no longer in the world” (NASB).  And yet, he is still in the world (verse 13, NIV).

In this prayer he reports to his Father all he has done and intends to do.  He consecrates himself to the Father as the High Priest who is both the one offering the sacrifice and the sacrifice itself.  He consecrates his disciples who will now be without his physical presence and for those who will believe in Jesus through their witness.  He prays for himself, for his disciples and the disciples yet to come.  It is an intimate insight into the relationship Jesus had with the Father, his disciples, and the world.

One is reminded of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  That episode is lacking in the Gospel of John.  At the garden Jesus struggles to totally surrender to the Father’s will, yet he does fully surrender.  He prayed, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36, NIV).  This prayer is one of total surrender as is the High Priestly Prayer of John 17.

The prayer is not only for Jesus’ sake but also for those who are with him.  Hearing Jesus prayer would give them the reassurance in the midst of hardship that Jesus will see them through if they remain faithful.  This prayer speaks of difficult days ahead and the struggle they will have in the world.  But it also speaks of God at work in and through a seemingly weakness in his design that will turn out for his greatest glory and purpose.  In weakness God shows himself to be triumphant!

Jesus’s monologue emphasizes the mutuality of his Father with himself.  That mutuality is spoken of in terms of what they possess in common—the disciples and all things.  The words he shared with the disciples came from the Father. Jesus prays that the disciples may be one as he and the Father are one.  Jesus acknowledges that he was sent from the Father and is returning to him.  This concept of mutuality builds a foundation for the mutuality we see in the early church.  The church in Jerusalem practiced an unusual generosity where they sold their property and possessions to help those who were poor.  Luke reports, “All the believers were together and had everything in common” (Acts 2:44, NIV).  So effective was this mutuality that there was no one needy among them (Acts 2:34).  This communal living seems to be unique in the early church of Jerusalem.  However, the biblical basis for caring for those in need in Christian communities is shared throughout the New Testament.  1 John 4:17 states, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”  The mutuality of Father and Son has is defined as love by Jesus’ command, “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35, NIV).  This echoes John 17:21, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  Both of these passages have an evangelistic purpose that is fostered by the oneness of the church and that oneness is manifested in their love for one another.

Jesus commissions his disciples in verses 17-19.  He prays that the Father sanctify them.  The word “sanctify” (hagiazo) is also translated as set apart, to make holy, to consecrate. The word is used in the Septuagint to dedicate people and holy vessels unto the Lord.   The disciples are sanctified, made holy for God’s service through the truth of Jesus’ revelation as the living word.  This word of commissioning is applicable to us as well.  It is a divine commission and our relationship with Jesus Christ is the basis of that calling.  Jesus sends his disciples into a life/death that he himself undertook.  That life/death resulted in Resurrection.  Our calling is counter to a culture of self-promotion, of dreaming for a life of growing ease and comfort and financial independence.  Jesus calls us to serve and, in serving the Father, we find life.

Jesus prayed that his disciples would be protected in the world.  We need that protection.  We live as sojourners in the world, in opposition to the evil one.  Nevertheless, we are not to hide, run or pray for the rapture but to engage the hostile yet loved world, witnessing with the words of Jesus shown forth in our character, words and works of service.  The church should pray for one another for protection against the evil one lest we lose ourselves to the world.  The nature of the relationship of the Father and Jesus emphasizes the doctrine of the Trinity.  The theme of Christ’s glory is shown in and through the disciples through their fruitfulness (15:8).  Jesus prays for their protection that they may be one and he prays that they be sanctified for the purpose of being sent to fulfill his mission of redeeming the world.

Mario A. RamosMario A. Ramos
Associate Professor
Baptist University of the Americas, San Antonio, Texas

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